Innovation

New sustainable smart cities information hub launched

A new cross-sector, free-to-access smart cities platform, SustainableSmartCities.org, bringing together businesses and local governments employing smart technologies to make cities greener, cleaner and more sustainable, has been formally launched by the Environmental Industries Commission (EIC), a trade organisation representing the environmental technologies and services sector.

New sustainable smart cities information hub launched
The platform allows users to search a database of case studies giving examples smart technologies being used to improve environmental performance in cities. The site allows searches to be based on the challenge being faced (e.g. waste management, air quality, smart city strategy, open data platform), location and the stage of development at which the solution is currently at.

The use of big data and new technologies to address urban sustainability issues is becoming more and more of an attractive idea in resource efficiency and waste management circles. Technology consultancy Navigant Research last year predicted that the global market for smart waste collection technologies will grow from $57.6 million (£45 million) in 2016 to over $223.6 million (£178 million) in 2025.

Examples of case studies around resource management available on the platform include ‘Forage Tracking’, where the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo is using smart sensors to map the movements of informal recyclers (Catadores) to see where waste is cropping up most frequently, and Seattle’s ‘TrashTrack’ system, which uses tiny tags to follow different waste items through the city’s waste management system to understand the ‘removal chain’ taking place.

The website also hosts resources on smart city strategies and the use of emerging technologies.  

With the goal of accelerating sustainable industry growth, the platform aims to undertake the following activities:

  • Share international case studies and best practice – helping government and industry across all sectors to learn more efficiently and secure investments;
  • Connect previously isolated stakeholders through a series of networking and discussion events;
  • Provide thought leadership, market intelligence and investment insight through in-depth reports on policy and markets, blogs from industry and governmental leaders, and strategic identification of opportunities for growth;
  • Lobby governments and policy makers for a regulatory framework that encourages and nurtures innovation; and
  • Foster cross-sectoral collaboration to effect change.

The platform has been sponsored and supported by engineering group AECOM, law firm Bird & Bird, and the Institute for Environmental Analytics (IEA) and has been in development for the last three years, drawing on experience and knowledge gained through extensive stakeholder engagement, research from the EIC.

During this time, input from across all sectors in industry has been collated and applied in order to turn this initiative into a reality.

The website was launched officially (the website has been live since September 2016) at a special event last Thursday (25 May) at the offices of engineering firm AECOM with a diverse range of industry sectors represented by attendees. Attendees sat through evening events such as a demonstration of the platform’s case studies database, an outline of future plans and discussion of the potential for future Smart Cities collaboration.

Commenting on the launch of the initiative, Matthew Farrow, EIC Executive Director, stated: “This initiative meets a real need: bringing together a disparate market; matching cities facing environmental challenges with new, innovative solutions; and providing an evidence base to unlock investment.

“As a neutral industry broker, EIC is bringing together all the key stakeholders that make this market work, to share best practice, open up new collaborations, and improve the quality of life of citizens living in cities at home and around the world.”

The time is now

The use of connected technology and devices, facilitated by the Internet of Things (IoT) – the concept of devices talking to each other, and us, to spread data and increase functionality – has the potential to greatly increase efficiency in our waste and resource management systems.

In a recent feature in Resource, we covered the ways in which new technologies can help to render these systems more efficient. Kerbside waste collections are a relatively inefficient process, with the same size lorry driving down the same streets every week, regardless of whether the bins need emptying or not, but in the future smart technologies could be used to communicate what households are actually going to dispose of, rather than trying to predict it.

A good example of this is the Big Belly Solar bins which have been placed in some areas of the UK. Sensors in the bins alert collection crews when the bens are 85 per cent full to ensure they are not allowed to overflow, but also so that they are not emptied unnecessarily. The bins are also fitted with solar-powered compactors to make more space, and trials with 160 councils showed that the average frequency of bin collections fell by 86 per cent – doubtlessly a significant efficiency saving.

Furthermore, underground waste system producer Envac, supported by the Horizon 2020 project-funded GrowSmarter initiative, is being fitted into 300 Stockholm apartments to collect food, paper, other dry recyclables and general waste, using optical sorting technology to send waste through underground tubes to one inlet for collection, reducing the need fort waste collection trips.

Bridging the divide

Further comment from the SustainableSmartCities.org, comes in the form of Alex Tosetti, Head of Smart Cities and Operations Director at AECOM, who said: “SustainableSmartCities.org is the solution to years of isolated smart cities work, helping to bridge the distance between pockets of knowledge, practical experience, strategic investments, political support and more. This collaboration will best ensure that our cities will leverage smart technologies or big data to create a cleaner, greener and more sustainable world.” 


Michael Rudd, Partner at Bird & Bird LLP, added: “Throughout the world, cities face complex challenges to become sustainable and smarter but are also ideally placed to drive investment, deploy innovation and offer the right scale for pilot projects.  In EIC’s 2014 sustainable smart cities report it recommended a multi-faceted strategy to unlock the potential for sustainable smarter cities, including raising awareness of the challenges and opportunities to achieve this.  SustainableSmartCities.org is an important platform to capture and share smart city case studies and other resources.”

To find out more visit SustainableSmartCities.org or read ‘Smart Streets: How the Internet of Things is revolutionising waste’, featured in Resource 87

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